Is Smart Pill Motility Testing The Wave Of The Future?

by Pamela Jessen, Zebra Pit Contributing Author

Have you ever wanted an easier way of being tested when you have Gastrointestinal problems?

A picture of the SmartPill for motility testing. Shows a small, intricate brass tone cylinder covered in a clear coating.
Medtronic SmartPill™ Motility Capsule

Gastrointestinal motility describes how well your digestive system works moving food in and waste out. When you have a GI motility disorder, that means your system doesn’t work the way it should. There is a problem at some point along the digestive tract, and your symptoms may be chronic nausea, bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, or vomiting. Now imagine being able to swallow a single pill to help determine what the problem is? Those days are becoming a reality with The SmartPill™.

The SmartPill™ study is a diagnostic technique that can investigate gut health, particularly with regard to motility disorders. The electronic pill is a disposable capsule that the patient swallows in the doctor’s office. It uses a variety of sensors to test gut pH (how acid or alkaline the GI tract is at any point), and gut pressure. The system also measures the pill’s approximate position in the body. The SmartPill™ is monitored for a number of days until it exits from the body in a bowel movement. It therefore takes diagnostic readings for the entire duration of its motion through the gastrointestinal tract.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The SmartPill™ measures the amount of time it takes to move food through specific regions of the gastrointestinal tract and the overall amount of time it takes to move food through the entire gastrointestinal tract. By measuring gut pressure, the system can determine how hard the muscles of the gut are pushing at any particular point during the voyage of the pill. The pH readings can diagnose the presence of low stomach acid, as well as problems with abnormally low or high pH in other areas.

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No sedation or radiation is used and so the risks for this procedure are fairly low. The patient can go about their usual activities. The main risk is the possibility of the pill becoming stuck at some point within the gut. It is not necessary to purge the gut with laxatives because no imaging is used, and so the gut can be in a more natural state than with a colonoscopy.

Image displays the SmartPill™ Motility Recorder, a small, gray receiver with an LCD display window and light gray button o nthe front.

SmartPill™ Motility Recorder

In order to monitor the pill, the patient must wear a radio receiver at all times during the study. This receiver records data that is wirelessly transmitted from the pill. The receiver can be worn on a belt or lanyard. At the start of the study, the patient must eat a standard meal, which is typically something like a granola bar, after which the pill is swallowed. The test concludes 3-5 days later when the pill has passed out of the body in a bowel movement.

Following the test, the data collector is returned to the doctor who will review and discuss the collected data.

The Need for Testing

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

There are various GI disorders that will qualify for SmartPill™ testing, such as unexplained nausea and vomiting, heartburn, ulcers, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, or incontinence.

Gastroparesis is one of the main disorders that can benefit from SmartPill™ technology. Gastroparesis means paralysis of the muscles of the stomach. This results in delayed emptying of food from the stomach into the small intestine. The primary symptoms are bloating, nausea and vomiting. You may also experience something called “dumping syndrome” which is the difficulty of regulating the movement of food. Symptoms include:

  • A feeling of fullness, even after eating just a small amount
  • Abdominal cramping or pain
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Sweating, flushing, or light-headedness
  • Rapid heartbeat

Find relief: Natural Treatments for Gastroparesis

Medtronic MotiliGI™ Software

Gastroparesis is hard to diagnose without investigative testing and normally needs a motility study done. To accomplish this, an egg sandwich with a radioactive tracer is eaten, and a series of x-rays are taken to determine how quickly the tracer is transported through the GI tract. The test can take up to 2 hours long as the x-rays are taken at various intervals (every 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, then 30 minutes, etc.). It’s easy to see why swallowing a single pill and going about your normal day would be seen as a benefit.

Conclusion

Many medical clinics in the US seem to be using this technology but it doesn’t seem to be as popular in Canada yet. The next time you’re scheduled to see your Gastroenterologist, ask about SmartPill™ technology and whether it’s something that could benefit you now.

References: 


About the Author

Pamela Jessen

Pamela Jessen lives in Langford, BC Canada. She is a blogger who writes about Chronic Pain, Chronic Fatigue and Invisible Illness at pamelajessen.com.  She also writes for The Mighty, PainResource.com and various independent publications. Pamela is also a Patient Advocate with the Patient Voices Network in BC. She sits on 4 committees and one Provincial working group and has also been involved in advocacy work at the Canadian National level as well. Pamela is married to her amazing husband Ray and they have one cat named Dorie. 


Is Smart Pill Motility Testing the Wave of the Future? If you have to get regular gastric emptying studies, you might think so. Learn about the test that begins with a simple pill in your doctor's office and doesn't require long or repeat imaging visits now. Great for people with Gastroparesis, Delayed Gastric Emptying, Dysmotility, IBS, and so many more.
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6 thoughts on “Is Smart Pill Motility Testing The Wave Of The Future?

  1. I would definitely be willing to try something like this should my digestive system decide to crop up with yet another issue (I have celiac disease and diverticulosis). I’m sure it would be MUCH better than the hideous colonoscopy I had. Ick! I’m not big into swallowing technology, but I would probably do this rather than go through that nightmare again!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jaime! Thanks for commenting. It would be amazing if this test could replace a colonoscopy. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re able to capture the same type of information or use it take biopsies, as far as I’m aware. If nano-technology becomes a thing, I bet that will change! I really hate going through colonoscopies, too. There’s now a fecal cancer screening test, but of course it wouldn’t address celiac damage or diverticulosis. At least they’re making progress in the right direction!

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  2. I definitely think this is an exciting development, both because it has the potential to tell us far more about what’s going on inside, and because it’s less risky compared to radiation-based tests or invasive procedures.xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right? I was just speaking with someone about testing colonic dysmotility without this pill, which I’ve never had. You ingest radioactive tablets and come back for pictures 5 days later to see if any are left. So little info there. I know for me, clearing my system first makes it work a lot better, so doing a prep beforehand never provides an accurate emptying test. I’ve also started reacting to eggs so that’s out. I think they need to just scrap the old methods. Terribly poor results. Are you in Australia? Do you know if you get SmartPill testing there?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had a similar test, swallowing tablets and having scans to see where they are 5 days later to see what happens. But I had chronic constipation, so every single marker was still there and it was awful because they wanted to me off laxatives for just over a week in all. Old methods do need improving, you’re right. I’m in the UK but I’ve googled it and it looks like it may be available in Australia – https://www.westernsydney.edu.au/gimotility/gi_disorders/Gastroparesis/diagnosis
        Caz xx

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    2. You are the sweetest. You didn’t need to do that! Thank you. I have to laugh at myself a little. I know Caz is fairly popular in Australia, so that has to be where I got that idea. You know what they say about assumptions 😊

      Like

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